AgResearch Faculty and Staff Presented with Awards at 2017 UTIA Luncheon

J.E. Moss AgResearch Award recognizes excellent achievement in research for the Institute of Agriculture. Awards are selected by the deans of AgResearch in consultation with the UTIA chancellor. These individuals demonstrate research excellence and collegiality in their field of research.

Joe Sarten is an engineer for AgResearch and provides engineering services for all ten of our AgResearch and Education Centers. In twenty-seven years of work with AgResearch, Sarten has provided agricultural, civil, electrical, environmental, and mechanical engineering on 240 projects involving more than $25 million in funds across the state. His work includes the design of the irrigation system at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, the plaza for the UT Gardens, poultry houses, and research buildings to raise beneficial, predatory insects.

A recent project that Sarten worked on is the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program in Lewisburg, Tennessee, a partnership of UTIA, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the Tennessee Farmer's Cooperative. The Beef Heifer Development program is designed to increase the opportunity for custom replacement heifer development and to demonstrate proper replacement heifer development to beef cattle producers in Tennessee.

T.J. Whatley Young Scientist Award is presented to a young scientist with more than five years of service to the Institute. This faculty member should possess the aptitude, judgment, drive, and interpersonal skills to have an outstanding and productive career as an agricultural scientist.

Dr. Faith Critzer, assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Food Science, focuses her work on preventing food-borne illness. Her audience for improving food safety knowledge includes manufacturers, food handlers, and consumers. She leads Safety Certification courses and domestic kitchen workshops across the state as part of her work for UT Extension.

Critzerís research is focused on improving agricultural practices and post-harvest handling. This includes work with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, where she was involved with the FDAís Food Safety Modernization Act. This multistate effort is designed to help growers gain knowledge and become compliant with the new produce safety rule. Producers understand that contaminated water can contaminate produce, but testing water only provides a snapshot of water quality. Instead of focusing on water testing, Critzer and her team members are developing training to implement water treatment systems on their farms.

Research Impact Award is presented to a UT AgResearch faculty or professional staff member whose efforts have had a profound effect on improving efficiency, sustainability, and/or economic viability of the food and fiber industry of rural areas in Tennessee.

Dr. Doug Hayes, recipient of the 2017 Research Impact Award, leads a research team that studies interfacial behaviors in biological and agricultural systems. He has been with UTIA for thirteen years and is quick to point out that the award he received is a reflection of a great research team and excellent collaborators. He is a professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science.

Hayesís largest effort underway is a $4.5 million USDA-funded project that is a collaborative effort among three universities and twenty project collaborators. The Biodegradable Mulch Project Team is investigating the long-term impacts of biodegradable plastic mulch use in organic vegetable production. Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops. One of the groupís goals includes assessing whether the adoption of biodegradable mulch increases the profitability and sustainability of specialty crops.

E.J. Chapman Outstanding Service Award was established by the late E.J. Chapman, who served the university in a wide range of capacities from agronomist to assistant vice president for agriculture. This award recognizes a member of the supporting staff in teaching, research, or extension.

Administrative support at AgResearch and Education Centers is often the responsibility of just one person, and thatís the enormity of what Amelia Rader does at the AgResearch and Education Center at Greeneville. Her duties include payroll, invoicing, budget matters, and coordinating field days and research projects. Rader has spent thirty-two years with UTIA, all of them at Greeneville.

Raderís work goes beyond the day-to-day, and she seeks out opportunities to help the Center run more efficiently and cost effectively. Amelia has developed an online system to monitor yields from tobacco harvests that has cut data collection time from one week to half an hour. She also handles data the Center collects for the National Weather Service. Thereís not an IT specialist per se at the Greeneville Center, and her coworkers say they donít need one because Amelia can handle technical issues as well.

Dr. Robert Miller says Amelia is the most outstanding employee heís ever worked with. In addition to being extremely competent, director Rob Ellis especially likes the way she cares about UTIA and how the people of Greeneville regard the university based on their dealings with the Center. Amelia Rader is the recipient of the 2017 E.J. Chapman Outstanding Service Award.